SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - Provided to WBTV by Livingstone College: While other high school students were stressing over what to wear to school the next day, Precious Sidbury of Charlotte was confronted with a more pressing issue.
Where would she sleep at night? Would it be at a neighbor's house? At a friend's? Or in a car?
Unlike her peers, she was homeless in high school. Her mother suffered a stroke and was out of work for a year, losing their home.
In order to offer some consistency in their living arrangements, Sidbury's mother separated the family. Sidbury's two brothers and only sister went to live with her mother's family while Sidbury, the youngest of her siblings, stayed with her best friend from high school.
Her mom continued to live in her car.
On Friday, Sidbury will graduate from Livingstone College with a bachelor's degree in English. How did she get from homelessness to college graduation? Through Livingstone College's Bridge Program.
The Bridge Program is the brainchild of Dr. Jimmy R. Jenkins, Sr., Livingstone College president. It is a six-week summer program designed to assist students in making a successful transition from high school to college.
It is a student's second chance at getting a college education and specifically targets students who have college potential, but who do not meet admissions requirements regarding GPA, core courses, or ACT and SAT scores.
"I knew I always wanted to go to college, but did not know financially how to pay for it," Sidbury said. So she decided to join the military.
As fate would have it, one day Livingstone College recruiters visited her school, South Mecklenburg High in Charlotte. She applied and one week before the Bridge Program was to start, she changed her mind about the military and came to Livingstone.
"I came to college with one red suitcase and that's it. I had no school supplies, no shoes, no clothes and no food," she said.
She would be given a room at the Livingstone College Hotel, which is where the School of Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management is housed, as that was her intended major at the time.
The room came fully furnished.
The next year, she became a resident assistant (RA) at the hotel and remained there the rest of her college years.
Sidbury said her math teacher at the time, Kenyatta Ridley, became her lunch buddy and mentor. She taught her how to drive and looked out for her on campus.
One day after getting her license, which was May of this year, Sidbury said she purchased her first car – the first of her siblings to do so – and is working three jobs, really four. She works at Harris Teeter during the week, at BoJangles' on the weekends, works as a tutor at the college's Student Success Center and is an RA.
She will be the first in her family to graduate on Friday and will do so with a 3.7 GPA. While cooking is a hobby, her passion is writing and speaking. Her plans are to teach locally and pursue her master's in communications.
"I was just making it through high school. I knew I would be somebody, but didn't know the steps to take," Sidbury said. "My advice is to not let your situation validate what you can do and accomplish. I've learned you can always hit the switch to make life better."
"Stories like that of Precious' is why the Bridge Program was created," said Jenkins. "Education is the surest vehicle for upward mobility. If you take this time seriously, you will have a much better life. I'm so proud of this program and want you all to live up to your potential."
If the past four years are any indication, Sidbury is well on her way.